The Experiment

This is the video we showed to each of the participants. First, they listened to the sound with their eyes closed. Next, they tried to read the lips of the person speaking without audio, and finally, they listed to the person speak while watching.

This is a video of each of the three participants completing the steps outlined above. Each of the participants heard different sounds each time they listened to and/or watched the video.

Expected Results

Progress Journal

Name: Reshmi Patel

Group Members: Kait Meek, Ashmal Lalani, Shivani Bathija

Badge Leader: Reshmi Patel

Date: Jan 31 - Feb 3

Badge Title: WOK Badge: Sense Perception

Project Title: The McGurk Effect: How Are Our Senses Connected?

2/2/17 Preparation

Today we read about sense perception in the textbook. Although sense perception seems straightforward at first, I realized through the reading that it is actually much more complex than it seems. We are taught that there are five senses when we are children, but this may not necessarily true. There are many other senses that could be considered some of our primary senses, for example awareness of how much space we take up in the world. I also learned about animal senses, such as echolocation, magnetic sense, and heat detection. Vision is the dominant sense for humans, but I learned that humans also have ways of compensating. It was fascinating to see the stories of humans who were able to learn echolocation or feel vibrations to compensate for blindness. Finally, our discussion about sensation and interpretation was very interesting and made me think about how complex sense perception really is.

We spent our time today brainstorming ideas for the project. All of the members of my group, including myself seemed to find the illusion section of the chapter the most interesting, so our project will likely be centered around that aspect. If I were to complete this project individually, I would start by researching and gathering more ideas on the document we created, as we have been doing in class. Next, I would choose the illusions and questions I thought were the best and test them on friends and family. I would make sure to choose a variety of people to test so the results that we later share with the class are accurate.

2/3/17 Elective Reading

ProToday, I listened to the podcast from Radiolab, "Why isn't the sky blue?" After reading the title, I expected it to be an explanation of the science behind light and color. However, it turned out to be about something even more fascinating. William Gladstone, a British Prime Minister in the 1800s, who was very passionate about Homer and his works began studying color in the Iliad and Odyssey when he noticed something odd about the descriptions. Homer's descriptions involving color are far different from how we would use color today. For example, he describes sheep as "violent" and oxen as "wine-colored." Since he found this so intriguing, Gladstone continued his research and found that Homer does not use the word blue at all in any of his works. Researching further, he found that all over the world, in many cultures, blue was the last color to appear in literature. Professor Jules Davidoff and linguist Guy Deutscher continued this research and figured out why this is. They came to the conclusion that ancient people, with the exception of the Egyptians, had no way of recreating the color blue. Tangible blue objects, such as flowers, are not common in nature, so it was hard to make blue dye. Although we see the sky as blue, since the sky is not something tangible, the ancients did not perceive it as the color blue and instead thought of it as simply empty space. Deutscher figured this out by experimenting on his young daughter as she was learning colors. She was never told that the sky was blue, so she did not automatically associate the two as most people do. When asked to name the colors of many different objects, she was able to do so for each one except the sky. At first she could not find a color to describe the sky; it was just empty space to her. When she did name a color, it was white, not blue. This podcast somewhat relates to our project because it shows that perception is something that can easily differ from person to person, and based on prior experience. Additionally, it shows the importance of the interaction between senses. When the ancient people were able to physically touch something, they could describe its color, but since the sky is so intangible, they did not notice it and thus did not describe it with a color.

2/6/17 Progress and Changes

Our group has decided to do our project on illusions, either optical illusions related to perception or illusions involving synesthesia. We should start by figuring out what illusion or illusions we want to use. It has to be something that is not very commonly known so that the people we test the illusions on haven’t already seen them before. We would also need to do some research into the background of the illusion we pick, including who designed it and what the purpose of it is. After the research, we would each go around and test the illusion on a large group of people. These people could include, but are not limited to family, friends, and classmates. We would not test them on the people in this TOK class because we wouldn’t want them to know the focus of our presentation before we present. Then, we would collect all of the data, analyze it to find some sort of significance and meaning, and organize it in a presentation, likely a Powerpoint.

After talking and brainstorming new ideas as a group, we eventually decided to take a different route with our project. We started by exploring illusions in general, particularly visual illusions and eventually started focusing on how expectations effect perception. This led us to the question “To what degree are our sense perceptions shaped by our expectations?” Then, we planned four different experiments that all revolved around this idea, but were related to different senses. However, we realized that having four experiments would lead to our presentation being too unfocused, especially since we only have 5 to 7 minutes to present. So, we moved away from the visual illusions and decided to experiment with the McGurk effect instead. This is an effect where what we see and hear separate of other senses effect what we hear when senses are used together. We then realized that this experiment did not fit with our original question, so came up with a new one: To what extent does the interaction between multiple senses affect our perception? We also decided to change the medium of our presentation. Originally, we planned on doing a Powerpoint presentation, but since this experiment relates more to hearing, making a video makes more sense in this case. We are planning on conducting the experiment during lunch today and creating the video after school today and tomorrow by collaborating online. In the video, we would include some clips of people’s reactions to the experiment, as well as an explanation of why the McGurk effect occurs and how it relates to sense perception.

2/8/17 Final Reflections and Essential Question

After completing our investigation and presenting it, I learned several things. Regarding sense perception and knowledge, I learned that when multiple senses work together, we as humans may perceive something different from if we isolate one sense at a time. When we asked three different people to tell us what they heard with their eyes closed, what they thought the person was saying (no audio) and what they heard with audio and visual, each time they got a different result. This shows us how interconnected our senses are and and proves our hypothesis correct, that adding or eliminating senses alters perception. Regarding the presentation itself, I realized that the biggest thing for us to work on next time is time management. Although we were close to the seven minute time limit, we still did go a bit over. Next time, we should aim to finish the major part of the presentation in about six minutes so we can save a minute for concluding and explaining what we learned.

To what extent is our understanding of the world shaped by the interaction between our senses? After completing this experiment, I was better able to answer this essential question. The interaction between senses changes the way in which we perceive things, whether it be for the better or for the worse. When we isolate one sense, it can give us clearer perception, as there are no other senses combining with that one sense. This was shown in the experiment, as the true sound was only heard when the participant had their eyes closed. However, using only one sense can also limit how much we can perceive. When the senses work together, you are able to learn much more about the world than by using each one individually. This is why the five senses are really more of a system with five different parts, than five separate entities. We as humans instinctively use all our senses together, so it is only when we purposefully isolate and then again combine the senses that we can realize the importance of using senses in tandem, but also be aware that using senses together can lead to incorrect perception at times.

Extension Proposal

I believe this Radiolab podcast should be added to the list of Elective Readings for the Sense Perception WOK Badge. It is a podcast about the condition Face Blindness, the inability to recognize faces. It is specifically about two people, Oliver Sacks (a neuroscientist) and Chuck Close (an artist famous for painting portraits) and how they respectively cope with this disorder. This would be a valuable addition to the Elective Readings because it gives the listener a better understanding of how people may perceive the world in extremely different ways. It discusses how people can learn to cope with perception related disorders, and even benefit from seeing the world in a unique way.

Knowledge Questions

To what extent is our understanding of the world shaped by the interaction between our senses?

How does the interaction between multiple senses affect our perception?

What is the role of expectation in sense perception?

To what extent do our senses work as a whole to take in information?

To what degree does having a dominant sense affect our understanding of the world?

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